While I’m sitting here, eating lunch, contemplating an interesting revelation, Tuff Enuff comes on the radio and it dawns on me what the issue is.
Lemme ‘splain. I’ve been writing for years, and I’m grateful for that because writers improve with each novel they pen. As much as I adore Keeper and the sequels, it’s no where near as good as Ether. And as completely devoted as I am to Ether, it’s already being blown out of the water by my current novel – Gray Area.
Sure, there were other novels between Keeper and Ether – good, fun, just not great. But I did write them. Start, plot, and finish. And that’s the important thing. Starting – WRITING – and Completing.
See, anyone and his third cousin’s wife can say they’re a Writer. Seriously. Anyone can. But fewer than that can talk intelligently ABOUT writing, especially to other writers. And fewer STILL can, actually and honestly, WRITE. I didn’t realize there were people like this out there, in the wilds, until recently, but I’ve come to realize there are a lot of people who can talk writing day in, day out, until they’re blue in the face – spewing advice and “rules” and tales of their efforts. But nail one to a wall and ask them to produce something they’ve written, and you’ll get another story.
That’s when a friend explained to me that, all too often, people want to Have Written, but few of them have the stamina, the talent, or the where-with-all to WRITE. And keep writing, and then write another one and another one after that.
Not long ago I started asking several of these people if they had any completed-but-shelved novels they’d like to discuss, and I was shocked by the number of them who explained to me that, actually, they didn’t have any completed novels. Or collections. Or finished anything.
Some of them did, and they were good reads, each one of them. Some of them have completed work and they’re considering the request. But many — too many — admited they hadn’t ever completed a novel.
I’m not trying to sound snobby – like writing is some elite thing – it’s not. Not any more than any other art is. But in order to be a writer, one must write. Not “have started something years ago”, not “chat about writing” and not “dream of one day getting published”. Well, dude, the only way that can happen is if you write, and write some more, complete one and start another. Don’t play-act about being a writer. Don’t sit around chat groups and online message boards and go on about writing. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you “will, one of these days.”
Finish it, then write another one. And then another one.
If you think that sounds too much like “work”, well, it is. Not everyone can sit down in front of a blank screen or empty notebook and pen a full and complete novel, and actually reach The End. I’ve got a lot of writerly growth behind me after all this time, but I’ve still got a way to go – we learn until the day we stop learning. Usually the day after we’re dead. But how will you know if you don’t try? Are you tough enough?
Do you want to be a Writer, or just play one on the Internet?